Anti-Politics: A Collection of Agorist Essays
© 2021 ed. Sal Mayweather
If you’re still waiting for your masters for permission to live after nearly two years of “two weeks to flatten the curve”, don’t bother reading further. This isn’t your kind of book, and it won’t be your kind of review. Sal Mayweather is principally writing to political libertarians, those who believe in using existing parties, particularly the Libertarian Party, to effect positive change (reduced government, an end to state bullying, interventionism, etc). He marshals a host of allies to bid his reader — stop. It’s pointless. Any energy poured into the existing system is energy lost, energy that could have been used to subvert the system and create real change, instead. Mayweather, as host of the Agorist Podcast, contributes some of his own writings here, and leans heavily on Samuel E. Konkin III, whose theories on agorism and countereconomics organized anti-political thought in the 1960s, but his contributors include writers as diverse as Emma Goldman, Henry David Thoreau, and Gandhi. The ultimate lesson: don’t vote, do.
Although this agorist/voluntaryist/ant-political view has been making regular orbits in my thinking since at least 2019, it took the last year and a half of collective insanity for my remnant of faith in civil society to be destroyed completely. The world has taken a dark turn, somehow becoming infinitely less humane than it already was, a turn initiated by governments but continually fueled by the masses’ docility. Napoleon said that religion was excellent stuff for keeping common folk quiet, but politics is even better — politics keeps people agitated against one another, and the ritual of voting makes them think they’re going to change things even as the state goes its own way regardless. No election in the history of American elections has reversed the growth of government; at times it has slowed, and at times its energy has been been ineptly used, but by and large it grows.
The issue is not that the power of the government is being used incorrectly, Mayweather and other authors write; the issue is that such power exists. Even if someone wants it for good reasons, it will still corrupt them; they mean to be good masters, but they mean to be masters. It is power over others, the will to dominate others, that is the issue, and libertarians and anarchists cannot be taken seriously for wanting to destroy the devil with the devil’s own tools. Beyond arguing that seeking power is immoral in principle, and self-defeating in practice, Mayweather and others also point to how much more effective countereconomics, direct action, civil disobedience, and the like are. Even against the Nazis, civil disobedience was proven to work, as evidenced by the Rosenstrasse triumph, in which a mass protest of German wives forced Hitler and Goebbels to release the wives’ Jewish husbands from a deportment staging area — saving their lives. Oppressive states always generate a counter-economy through their abuses: in Iran, for instance, media that is officially banned once passed from hand to hand via cassette tapes; now it moves through USB drives. In our modern time, Mayweather asks, who broke the hotel and taxi monopolies — was it voting, or was it the free actions of creative visionaries who gave consumers options (AirBnB, Uber, Lyft, etc) around the law-cushioned corporations? What prompted the state to finally begin yielding on the drug war? Was it lobbyists, or widespread disobedience? Hope lies in action, not following the state’s script.
These are not new ideas; Mayweather opens with an Enlightenment-era summary condemnation of the state that’s worth reading just for its language, and moves to our present age through authors like Henry David Thoreau, Emma Goldman, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. I was particularly please to see Gandhi, for its was his commitment to nonviolence that made me recognize that coercion is immoral even when conducted by the government. Although the book is chiefly an argument against political participation, it also presents occasional ideas for building a counter-economy — working under the table, dropping out of the money economy by becoming more self-sufficient, shifting to cryptocurrency, etc. In 2021, there’s never been a better time to become ungovernable.
I Must Speak Out: The Best of The Voluntaryist, ed. Carl Watner
Countereconomics: From the Back Alleys to the Stars, Samuel E. Konkin III
Alongside Night, J. Neil Schulman
VONU: A Strategy for Self-Liberation, Shane Ratcliff
#agora, Anonymous. An agorist novel that mixes Konkin’s counter-econ thought with VONU ideas.
Well, I cannot agree with all libertarianism, but I certainly believe in minimal government and free enterprise. I do not know why people want to place their trust in a police or nanny state. They seem to think that men are evil and cannot govern themselves, but somehow a government is made up of good people who only are concerned with everyone’s welfare. I hate the rhetoric they use.
What also amazes me is how many rich people have embraced increasingly socialist politics. Why? Do they believe that none of it applies to them because they’ll be able to hide most of the assets in off shore accounts?
It’s a strange world and I’m glad it’s not all we have to look forward to.
This is an excellent review and I especially appreciate what you said about anarchists. Plato said that the extreme of anything always brings about the opposite effect. Anarchy, when it wins, produces tyranny.
As a Socialist who was born, grew up in and lived their entire lives in a ‘Nanny State’ or as we like to call it a ‘Welfare State’ I can honestly say it’s BRILLIANT. Very few people here would have anything different and can’t understand why some other countries DON’T have a system similar to ours.
That’s interesting. Can you share the country in which you reside?
The question of the rich supporting their own locusts-in-the-wings puzzled me when I was a leftist (~2011 was when that bottomed out). I think there are several motivations….with some, it’s vanity, preening — they like signaling virtue, asserting the moral high ground, or embracing something that’s scandalous and thereby increasing their own profile. With others, I think it’s more of a cynical way to hedge’s one bets: if you have a lot of money, you’re going to be very paranoid about political threats. But what if, instead of your and your friend’s wealth being targeted specifically, there was a more general attack on capital that made the middle class carry proportionally more of the load? If you’re Walmart, why not support socialized medicine? You don’t have to support your workers anymore because people all across the country now get to support them. Even better! You can work with your lobbyists or lawyers to create and exploit loopholes in the tax structure that allow you to escape the burden COMPLETELY while reaping all the perks.
I tend to be sympathetic toward minarchism as a practical goal, but there’s always the problem of how to keep an entity with a monopoly on violence from expanding itself. We tried having having two forces set against one another (DC and the States), but in the end their sectional differences meant that DC destroyed the states’ power almost completely.
To answer Cleo’s question I’m from the UK.
I think you hit the nail on the head about big business. They have a lot to gain from taking away the competition created by up and coming businesses. If they can choke them out while they are still small businesses, something Obama did with all of his regulations and taxes, they won’t grow up to be any threat. I think that is why a lot of big businesses are socialist. To drive away competition.
I also think there’s a lot of virtue signaling. the rhetoric of “help the poor and oppressed” when in reality, the Democrats have accomplished quite a bit in the way of securing generational poverty for “the poor and oppressed” and frankly I think a lot of the race identity politics are manufactured by leftists to preserve their image of “saviors of the victimized: poor, minority, gay…etc..”
Although to be fair, Republicans are hardly better.
they’ve done their fair share to bloat government as well. And they can’t even seem to keep their promises even when they owned the House and Senate.
My faith in a civil society is gone as well, as I watch people happily allow government to control them and the media divide them. What is even more pathetic is that it’s not even well done. The lies don’t even have to be well-constructed and they can leave the facts lying there and skate around them and your average person is too medicated to pick them up, look at them and form their own opinions. Is it laziness? Are we willing to give up our freedoms just to avoid the work of thinking? More and more, I think so.
We have just voted in a regime that is heading toward totalitarianism. We have vaccine passports and you can no longer go into certain venues unless you have one. Our Prime Minister that it is his job to protect certain segments of our population from others how he will do that is yet to be seen. Yet if the vaccines are doing what they claimed, why would he have to “protect” the vaccinated? The train of logic (or wreck of logic) is ludicrous. They are also trying to control what we are ALLOWED to see on the internet. It’s unbelievable. And during the election, at some polling stations, signs were up that said you couldn’t enter unless you had a vaccine passport which is illegal. I’m sure there was corruption with this election at many ends. And (I believe like you) we had the majority of the people vote for one party, yet the other party won based on electoral districts. Very frustrating.
In any case, to leave you with a laugh, this video is pretty much what is happening in Canada now. It’s funny but not funny, if you know what I mean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6PobXQ-af8
Ahhh, thanks for that video — especially the point about raising a generation of children who are immunocompromised, socially inept, and completely possessed by anxiety. I can’t even imagine how huge a dent this orchestrated fear-drama is going to leave on society’s mental health.
With every passing day my dismal expectations for what people will lower themselves to gets even worse. I knew Canada and Australia were grimmer than the US on that front (Australia has turned into the prison colony it began as!). We’re actually pushing to re-impose segregation on society!